There is something about February in contact centres, especially retail focussed contact centres like PCMS’. The last of the Christmas and New Year rush has finished and summer is still too far away to get excited about. So what can we do about it?
February is the perfect time to start your contact centre New Year’s resolutions. The first excitement of the crazy New Year’s resolutions has passed to be replaced by something more sensible, which people are more inclined to stick to. Ultimately the best strategy in a contact centre is not to create resolutions if things are that bad. You don’t need to wait for the New Year, act immediately!
For us this is a key time of year to review our successes over the Christmas period, how we managed the rush, how successful our sales were and how our plans blend with our customer’s strategy. It is also a great time for our agent’s to set their plans for the rest of the year. Everyone can always improve and having a performance plan and goal outlined for 2014 is a great way to start.
If you haven’t made plans for 2014, now is the time to start. What do you want to achieve as a business? How can a retail contact centre support these plans?
If you are looking for a retail contact centre who can deliver something different for you in 2014, contact PCMS on 024 7669 4455
Getting your training right is fundamental to making sure your contact centre services work. Here are 5 mistakes commonly made when delivering training.
1. Remember, remember, remember.
Did you read the newspaper last Sunday? If I tested you now on every story in the newspaper and the supplement would you remember it? Probably not! It is the same in training your contact centre agents; they will have a lot of information to retain, including customer information, detailed systems information, company information, scripts, greetings and a host of other material. Expect high standards from them but don’t expect them to remember every last detail on day one.
2. All done now.
Training over let them lose on your customers, right? Wrong. In the PCMS contact centre we always test our agents before they go live so we know they understand how to work through the systems and how to answer the calls. It is ok for them to ask questions but you need to know the information has sunk in and they will support your customers in an appropriate manner.
3. Now are we all done?
Not yet. Too often agents are then left to support customer calls as soon as training is over. But we all know what happens when that first call comes through. It’s an unusual query that you hardly get asked from a seemingly difficult customer or possibly it’s a simply query you get and your mind goes blank. In the PCMS contact centre we always make sure the agents have a nursery team, a floorwalker or an experienced agent by them to answer any questions and offer support.
4. Show them everything.
Like remembering everything, if the agents are shown what to do they will take it in won’t they?
Practice is everything – make sure a nursery environment is created which will allow the agents to practice their job in a controlled environment and learn the systems as they go along.
5. All done.
Training is finished when an agent can do the job! This is not necessarily true; always follow up training with regular coaching, 1-2-1 sessions and ad-hoc feedback. This makes sure there are no knowledge gaps, all of the agents can ask questions on areas they are unsure of and high quality standards are maintained.
To find out more about what the PCMS contact centre can do for you please complete the query form on our website.
As we begin a New Year, we would like take a moment to reflect on our top 5 success stories of 2013
Ann Summers – we went live with the full customer services offering and took on additional services over the year. We have had a great time working with Ann Summers and have formed brilliant working relationships with their teams.
Palmer and Harvey – PCMS celebrated our first anniversary of launching the telesales service within the contact centre.
Our brilliant people – ahem, now we don’t like to brag, but we’re going to. Paul Miller, our contact centre manager won ‘PCMS New Employee of the Year’. This was down to the success we’ve had in the contact centre which is in no small part down to him and the different thinking he brings to the business.
Mark Hatton won ‘PCMS Employee’s Employee of the year’. Mark is one of the best loved characters within the contact centre. He approaches everything he does with gusto and a great sense of humour. He encourages people at every level to do their best and do it with a smile. He has worked on a number of new projects and has consistently gone above and beyond what is expected of him – something he is extremely modest about.
Congratulations to Mark and Paul for their well-deserved awards.
Our new team leader – Amanda Dowie has worked for PCMS contact centre for the last 4 years. During this time she has built up a number of skills and a vast amount of experience within the contact centre. Amanda has now been promoted to team leader of the admin team and we have every confidence she will be a great success in her new role.
Working in partnership – the contact centre team leaders and contact centre agents have attended a number of product launches, sales events and joint training events on our customer’s sites and have worked closely with their teams. This joint working has served to cement our relationships with head office teams and promote joint working.
We hope you have all had a great 2013 and Best Wishes from all of us at PCMS Contact Centre.
1. How long have you worked at PCMS?
8 months at the moment but I have worked in training for at least 12 years and in several contact centres.
2. What is your role?
Training and Skills Manager – this means I monitor training needs through quality measures such as call quality and work with the team leaders and contact centre operations managers on any training requirements they have within their teams. I work with new customers developing comprehensive training and skills based programs so our agents deliver the best possible service in the contact centre for them. I also work with new agents on induction training and early days support.
3. What was your last role?
Regional Training Manager for Stonegate Pub Company – customer service, skills and development. This included cocktail training! I helped to develop career path training and induction programme.
4. What do you enjoy most about your job?
The interaction with the agents, seeing them develop and succeed in their role in the contact centre is always very rewarding.
5. What is the biggest challenge in your role?
Creating and delivering comprehensive training for the contact centre within short timeframes. It’s challenging but also one of the things I love most about the job.
6. What is the best thing about working at PCMS?
This might sound cheesy but the people. Everyone is always helpful and friendly in every department. I think it stems from being a family run business.
7. What is the next project you are working on?
Career path development for the contact centre we have so much brilliant talent in here I’m looking forward to seeing how far our talent can go.
1. Your agents aren’t failing enough.
If you don’t ask you don’t get. Agents can sit on calls being nice, being friendly and doing a great job of all of those things we like. Did they ask the question? Did they ask for the sale at the end of that call? If an agent can say to you they have asked 21 customers if they would like a product and 21 customers have said no then you have the start of telesales. When the agents are asking then you can train, develop and coach them so their sales techniques and customer services improves. They need to ask first before you have the start of telesales.
2. You’re being sensible.
I can see you. You are sitting in your seat. You are working hard. You are doing a good job but you just can’t get the sales in. You can see another call centre agent. She is running up to the sales board telling her team she has just made another sale. She has an award for her sales the previous day. She is working hard but she is having fun. She is telling all of her customers about a product she has. It is great. It is fantastic. She likes her product, in fact she would use this product herself. She puts the phone down and can’t wait to make the next telesales call because she wants to talk about her product. She is excited and dynamic, outgoing and friendly, she wants to do well, she believes in herself and what she is selling. She is allowed to enjoy her work and is encouraged to get excited about what she is doing. She works for PCMS.
3. You haven’t got a battle plan.
We know what we need to achieve, we know what we need to do to get there, we know what we need to do to go beyond the expectations of our customers, we have a plan and we’re not afraid to use it.
4. Your cheerleaders can’t do cartwheels.
Our call centre team leaders can! In the PCMS call centre, our team leaders are cheering their team on, enthusiastically clapping when an agent makes a sale. They monitor and develop their teams, they are in the trenches with their guys shouting out encouragement, making sure everyone knows their battle plan, making sure the team know what is expected of them, supporting, listening, tracking, and adapting their plan, always hungry for success. They want everyone to know what a great team they have and each and every success is celebrated.
5. You didn’t tuck your shirt in.
You’ve done it all. Your call centre agents are asking on every call, you’ve injected some fun and excitement into the call centre, your products are great, you have a battle plan, your team have a battle plan, you are doing cartwheels and back flips every time a call centre agent makes a sale but your team still haven’t hit their telesales target. I bet you tucked your shirt in before coming to work this morning, your socks match and your shoes are clean! You paid attention to the details before you left the house, you didn’t assume you were ready to go, you made sure you were. I made sure I knew where all of my team are against their telesales target. I made sure they have all had the correct product training, I make sure I regularly monitor calls and give feedback. I tucked my shirt in – I checked the details of the telesales stats, the call stats, I have 121’s with my team, I work for PCMS, I check the details.
Business Development Executive
Call quality monitoring (CQM’s) isn’t about trying to catch anyone out. It helps identify training needs and process problems and is integral to ensuring clients receive the highest level of customer service possible. This also helps agents continually improve which is one of PCMS’s core values.
Below are some tips from PCMS that can help improve CQM’s in your contact centre.
1. Agree all Call Quality measures with the clients
PCMS agrees all CQM measures with the clients prior to go live. This give you clear indication of how quality is measured within your contact centre and how the agents will go the extra mile for your customers.
2. Ascertain a skills manager
PCMS has a dedicated skills manager; they continually monitor individual and teams quality performance. This results in client focused individual coaching leading to outstanding results. All agents go through a rigorous training program before being exposed to a customer. This implementation gives the agents in depth product knowledge, which enables them to hit our stringent CQM targets. This ultimately leads to a high level of customer satisfaction and sets a good foundation for building long term relationships with our clients.
3. Produce a secure database of calls
Calls should be stored on a secure server or intranet. Access is only granted to team leaders and the skills manager. These calls are then assessed by the team leaders and or the skills manager. The captured information gives effective and concise information about individual and team performance.
4. Track individual and team performance
Tracking agent’s progress analytically can be used to assess individual performance and to identify and reward consistent performers. This can also be used to see if training has had a positive effect. Tracking performance is imperative to continuously develop agent’s skills. These continuous improvements lead to greater consistency, which in turns leads to greater customer and client satisfaction.
5. Agent development plans
An open and well established structure can lead to CQM’s been seen as a positive by your agents. CQM’s should be used as a development reinforcing tool. Historical CQM’s can be used in regular 121’s to show continual improvement within a contact centre. Side by side listening is a very powerful tool to help agents develop at a fast pace. It is particularly effective at the start of a new campaign or if an agent is struggling, as instant feedback is available. We have seen this transform struggling agents into some of our top performers.
6. CQM scoring
It’s important that this is a very open process to allow agents to learn from mistakes. PCMS sets a benchmark of 80% which all agents must achieve. There are also certain critical criteria the agents must meet or they fail the call overall. Any agents that fall below our benchmark will have immediate feedback from their team leaders and may enter into a training session on that particular subject. All information is feed back to our client managers and is used to deliver feedback.
All of our customers are marked with a pass or fail criteria on the following key areas:-
• Soft skills
• Promotions/ value add
Graduate Management Trainee
In these tough economic times, customer loyalty is just as hard to maintain as is it to win. Call Centre Helper tells us how to find new ways of reaching and engaging with customers.
Looking after your existing customers
Keeping existing customers is much less expensive than winning new ones. Maintain regular contact with existing customers to ensure customers are happy with what they are being offered. Take every opportunity to ask ‘Is there anything else we can help you with?’
Understand the customer experience
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes to understand their experience.
Predict the future
Try to identify customer behaviors that show unhappy customers and pay particular attention to ensure they are happy and satisfied with your service. An appropriate and helpful intervention at the right time could make all the difference.
Prioritising complaint handling and dealing with issues quickly and efficiently can help turn a customer’s negative view on the company into a positive one. Agents should take ownership of every issue and deal with the complaint to satisfactorily settle it.
Make it personal
Every campaign should be tailored to that customer and personalised to meet their needs and requirements. Build up a rapport with the customer and this can be achieved through capturing comprehensive information on customers to enable you to know them better.
Sometimes that added touch can make all the difference to ensure a happy and loyal customer. Simple phrases, such as ‘I completely understand…’, is all it takes to show you care.
Having read an article this week on Call Centre Helper about delivering great customer service, the article highlights some key points that are essential.
Great customer service comes from the front line customer service staff. It is the people that reflect the company and set the standard. Some of the best customer service is delivered by customer service agents who are able to think for themselves, act independently and be flexible. It can be really frustrating for a customer dealing with a call centre agent who is unable to deviate from a pre-prepared script.
Over time, companies that settle for a set level of service will inevitably fall behind the competition. Call centre agents should be trained to continuously improve their customer service technique and should be encouraged to view their mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
Customer patience is limited and with poor support and customer service, it is likely to become more constrained. Believe in great customer service, deliver a decent customer service operation and the rewards are immense.
Having read an article on Call Centre Helper this week about how to deal with angry customers, it outlines the basic principles that will help you to handle the customer in the correct manner and calm the situation. As the initial point of contact, it is important to remember not to take the customers anger personally; they are simply expressing their feelings about the company. Your objective should always maintain customer satisfaction to ensure customer retention.
Never argue back: Always remain professional and positive, and remember your behaviour and manner reflects that of the company. Empathising with their point of view and suggesting possible solutions aid the resolution of the situation, and makes a happy customer.
Use your ears more than your mouth: By listening carefully to the customer, you will better understand why they are complaining, and this helps you to take the necessary steps to help resolve the issue.
Show that you care: A customer needs resolutions, and it is important to show that you care about their situation. They need to see you will do everything within your power to try and settle the problem. Empathy and understanding are the key.
De-stress yourself from time to time: In order for you to calm a heated customer, you need to be calm yourself, so it is essential that you take a break to de-stress from time to time with a beverage.
Be patient: In order to proceed with a difficult customer patience is essential, and in turn this means you remain professional. Although it is not easy to stay patient, ultimately you will find that the customer will calm down sooner rather than later if you do.
Be positive in your approach: Adopting a positive mindset will help you to manage the situation and your stress effectively, and provide better customer care. Expressing your point of view positively avoids adding more hostility with the customer and the situation.
The key to success with an angry customer is to remain calm, and listening patiently, showing respect and empathy. Be sure to let the customer know what you can do to resolve the issue rather than what you can’t do. Offering possible solutions that a customer is happy with means you are on your way to turning a call that started as a negative issue into a happy resolved one.
Having read through Call Centre Helper this week, I have found that the importance of customer experience is ever increasing. As Jerry Gregoire says ‘The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.’
An article called ‘top 10 tips for exceeding customer expectations’ discusses how contact centre staff can go that extra mile to improve the customer experience, and below I have outlined some key points when dealing with customers:
Earning the trust of a customer is really important and in turn, so is keeping the customers interests at heart. Put yourself in the customers’ shoes and imagine how you would like to be treated if you were making a complaint or inquiry. This will help you to ensure the call is handled in the best possible manner.
2. Take Ownership of the Problem
Being passed around different departments in a contact centre can be very frustrating and time consuming for a customer. Taking ownership of the problem and resolving it as best you can relays a better image of the contact centre and the company, thus improving reputation and enhancing customer care.
3. Follow up
After a problem is resolved, a brief call to the customer to check if the customer is satisfied with the service or product can speak volumes to a customer about the company. It shows that the company has taken the problem on board and are trying to avoid all future instances of the problem reoccurring. This is also an ideal opportunity to get feedback from the customer about their experience with the way the company handled there inquiry or problem.
4. Find a Balance
Contact centres often find balancing the needs of the business and the needs of a customer difficult. For example, if there is a rule not to exceed a time limit allocated to each call, an advisor may find they provide a quick short term solution rather than the most effective one. Advisors should be able to stay with a customer for a longer time to resolve the issue the best they can, and therefore provide a better customer service and experience.
5. Don’t Make the Script too Rigid
Engaging with customers adds emotion into a call and makes it sound less robotic. Customers call with varying issues which means they require tailored advice or resolutions. Making the calls more personalised allows the customer to feel valued for their time and business, thus enhancing their customer experience.
A regular team meeting to discuss strengths and weaknesses enables an advisor to consider what they can do to improve their inbound calls and outbound calls. It also allows the team to share skills and knowledge, so the other team members can learn an effective way to do something and provide higher standards of customer service. This will provide a more consistent experience for the customer.